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02 December 2019

Facebook adds 'correction' to post under Singapore fake news law

Controversial law requires statements deemed false by government to be 'corrected'


Facebook has added a correction notice to an article posted on its platform under the terms of Singapore’s controversial new fake news legislation. The notice, which can only be seen by users in Singapore, states that Facebook "is legally required to tell you that the Singapore government says this post has false information,” according to a BBC report.

The correction - on the Facebook page of news site States Times Review (STR) – complies with The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which came into force last month. The Australian-based editor of STR had refused to comply with the ruling.

The Act was passed in May amid fears that it could curb freedom of speech and stifle innovation and academic research. It criminalises the communication of false statements of fact in some circumstance with individuals facing fines of up to $50,000 and five years in prison.

Companies face fines of up to $500,000, which can be more severe if bots or fake accounts are used to disseminate false statements.

Correction directions

According to a Society for Computers and Law briefing on the Act, part three allows government ministers to issue a ‘correction direction’ that requires offending communicators to post correction notices as well as a ‘stop communication direction’ that directs a communicator to stop circulating false statements.

Recipients of notices can appeal to the High Court of Singapore against a direction, while the government has the power to require internet access service providers (ISPs) to take reasonable steps to disable local access.

In a statement supplied to the BBC, Facebook, whose Asia headquarters are based in Singapore, said it hoped implementation of the Act would be “measured and transparent”.

Opposition politician targeted

The Act was invoked for the first time on 25 November, when opposition politician Brad Bowyer added a correction notice to one of his posts, which had questioned the independence of state investment funds. The notice linked through to a statement by the Singapore government that explained it was providing “corrections and clarifications” to his post.

“Under the POFMA Act I must place the correction notice regardless of whether I make an appeal and only if my appeal is approved can I remove it...,” Bowyer said.

“Currently, I am still studying the final implementation of the legislation and its processes and so reserve my right to appeal at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.”

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